Nunc Coepi

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You would expect Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers to make public appearances wearing a cap with the team’s iconic horseshoe. 

But more often than not, the veteran slinger – who is about to finish his 17th season in the NFL – wears a cap that displays two Latin words: Nunc Coepi

That hat “tends to be on my head most of the time, unless I’m asleep,” he says. 

Nunc Coepi (pronounced “cheppy”) is a catchphrase popularized by the Venerable Bruno Lanteri, an 18th century Catholic priest who lived in northern Italy.  It comes from the Latin Vulgate translation of Psalm 77:10.  It means, “Now I begin.” 

Rivers, a committed Catholic, made the phrase his own a number of years ago.  Nunc Coepi “is a never-ending beginning.  You are always beginning.  Now I begin again and again and again.”

Rivers and his wife Tiffany are the parents of nine children, which essentially means they can field their own football team.  He says, “If you ask any of my children, ‘What is Dad’s favorite phrase?  What is our family phrase?’ they would say it immediately.  I really try to apply it to my life all the way through as a dad, as a husband, in my faith, on the football field as a quarterback, as a teammate – anything you can do, you are always beginning again.” 

This week, Rivers and my hometown Colts are definitely beginning again. 

Having squandered a 17-point second-half lead last Sunday to the Great Satan (sorry, I meant to type the words Pittsburgh Steelers), Rivers and crew are now outside the playoffs.  There’s just one weekend left to play, and the Colts will need help from other teams to qualify for the post-season.

Rivers, 38, is not fazed. 

Whether you win or lose, throw a touchdown or an interception, it’s always time to move to the next step.  “We begin again,” he says.  “We begin again.” 

As a dad, Rivers coaches his kids to begin again whenever they struggle with their math, falter on a difficult test, face a towering stack of dirty dishes, or confront a pile of laundry.  “If you look at the whole big pile, it looks like a lot.  But if you just begin again, begin again, and begin again, you look up and then the sink will be clean and the laundry will be folded.”

Nunc Coepi is a crucial watchword for anyone who dreams of living a faithful life. 

January 1 is America’s favorite day for New Beginnings.  “Starting this New Year’s, I will lose weight.  I will quit smoking.  I will keep a lid on my anger.  I will be patient with my spouse and kids.”  But so often we frame such resolutions as Win/Lose.  If we blow one of those promises – and usually we’re not talking about if, but when – our resolve may collapse like a house of cards. 

It can feel as if we’ve gone back to Zero.  Now what do we do?

We first remember that an extraordinary proportion of everyday life is less-than-perfect.  Or just flat-out failure.  Our most earnest, heartfelt promises are never enough to keep us heading in the right direction. 

But when it comes to pursuing God, that’s not fatal.

Have I ever “surrendered myself completely to Jesus”?  You bet.  In fact, I’ve done it several hundred times.  And every single time I absolutely meant it. 

You would think that at least one of those spiritual Final Decisions would have “taken.”  But I’ve always found myself in need of starting over.  Does that mean all my previous efforts were in vain? 

It took me a long time to realize this, but each of my previous this-time-I-really-mean-it moments was used by God to bring me to this moment

And this moment matters because it’s the only moment where I can experience, in the here and now, God’s presence and power – even if I’ve faltered in the past.

The Venerable Bruno Lanteri wrote, “If I should fall even a thousand times a day, a thousand times, with peaceful repentance, I will say immediately, Nunc Coepi.”  Now I begin again. 

Or as the gospel song puts it: “A saint is just a sinner who fell down…and got back up.”

2021 is almost upon us.  Despite our fondest wishes, it won’t turn out to be the perfect flip side of this very imperfect 2020.

But whenever we stumble, fall, or run into a roadblock of someone else’s making, we’ll know what to do.

Nunc Coepi

Secure in the realities of God’s grace, power, and forgiveness, we begin again.